Couples Match

Any two people (friends, partners, family) can participate in couples matching, as long as they are matching through the NRMP during the same application cycle. They can attend the same or a different medical schools.

Participating in an NRMP Match as a couple allows two applicants to link their rank order lists, with the goal often being to obtain positions in the same geographic location.

Couples match is not available for military, ophthalmology, or urology matches.

  1. Understand the application process through ERAS
  2. Review the NRMP resources on the Couples Match website. Here you will find the following useful information:
  3. Review the AAMC Careers in Medicine: Navigating the Match as a Couple
  4. Reach out to UWSOM alumni who couples matched, as they can provide great advice on the process, interviews, and ranking.
    • Talk with a Career Advisor about accessing the Residents in Medicine database where you will find contact information for alums.

You do not need to officially decide if you are couples matching until you enter your rank order list in February. It is to your advantage to make the decision to couples match earlier rather than later, as it can impact the number and location of programs you apply to and interview with.

  1. Talk through your individual and couples priorities with your match partner
    • Also consider discussing with trusted advisors (i.e. College Mentor, Specialty Career Advisor, Career Advisor, Counselor, etc.)
  2. Review your program list with a Specialty Career Advisor and/or Career Advisor prior to applying
  3. Prior to the start of interviews, strategize with your match partner about:
    • a shared method to track interview offers and schedules – set up a unique email with phone alerts
    • coordinating interview schedules (not always possible)
    • communication with programs
  4. During interviews, take notes on what you liked and disliked
  5. In January, schedule a couples match appointment with a Career Advisor and/or Specialty Career Advisor to review the logistics of creating your rank order list prior to certifying in NRMP

Plan to apply to more programs than you would as an individual. Discuss the specific number with your Career Advisor and/or Specialty Career Advisors.

  • An exact number will vary based on your specialty choices, your individual competitiveness, and your geographic targets.
  • In order to rank a given program or location, both partners must get an interview with their respective programs and both must like the programs and/or location of the programs. Then, to match at the programs, both of the programs must like both of you.

In ERAS, you will designate your couples status under the “Match Information” section of the “Personal Information” portion of the application.

Once you click “yes” to participating in the NRMP match, a drop down will appear that asks you if you are couples matching, what your partner’s name is, and what specialties they are applying to.

This designation does not officially recognize you as participating in the couples match. In order to officially participate in the couples match, you must register as a couple with the NRMP.

Each applicant must register individually in the NRMP’s R3 system. Once both applicants are registered, they can initiate a “couple request” through the R3 system. The registration process is complete once the “Couple Status” field in the R3 system lists “Accepted” and the “Fee Status” lists “Paid.”

General information and resources for researching residency programs available here.

Students select programs based on type (community vs. academic), geography, reputation, and their personal competitiveness relative to the program. For couples, geography can often be the dominant factor in determining programs.

  • Larger cities often offer more options than smaller locations, though that will vary by location and specialty.
  • When you are looking at programs, keep in mind the number of options that a city might offer.

For example, if you are applying in OBGYN and your partner is applying in emergency medicine, trying to stay in the Northwest for residency is fairly limiting, because Seattle and Portland are the only two locations for both of those residency options, and the rank options that keep you geographically close are fairly limiting:

However, if you apply to programs in NYC or Boston, you will find that you have multiple program options for both specialties, which will give you a larger combination of ranks that keep you and your partner together in the same geographic area:

Another strategy is to apply to programs 50 or so miles apart from one another and live in between the two programs. A common example of this is the Boston, Providence and Worcester triangle, called U Mass. Several UW couples have had success with this arrangement.

  • Be sure there is a place to live that is halfway between the two programs.

Finally, some couples do decide to live in cities farther apart.

  • Consider locations that offer direct flights between the two cities.

Set aside 2 months for interview season due to the higher number of interviews needed.

  • You are not required to tell programs that you are couples matching, but you may find that it is easier to obtain interviews and coordinate interview dates at the same institutions if you inform them.
  • If applying to a small specialty try to map out potential interview dates BEFORE interviews are released.

When receiving interviews, it is very common for offers to come in at different times, which can make scheduling challenging.

  • This is especially true for those who are couples matching with people applying in dermatology or orthopaedic surgery, as these specialties don’t typically extend interview invitations until later in the season.

As soon as you receive an interview invitation, you should schedule your interview. Do not wait until your partner hears from their corresponding program before responding. If one partner gets an interview and the other has not heard for a week or so, we recommend the other partner reach out to the program to check on the status of their application and mention that you are couples matching.

  • Often, if you are the partner applying in the earlier specialty, you will need to accept and complete interviews at programs before your partner has heard. This may mean that you interview with programs and in cities where your partner does not receive an interview invitation, because you don’t know whether or not you will “need” that program later should they get an interview. This can lead to extra time and cost, so you may need some extra funding for this portion of the application process.

During your interviews, write notes to remember what you liked and disliked about the programs in categories. Keep a personal running rank list as you complete interviews.

  • At the end of interview season develop a system that compares both personal rank lists. Be willing to compromise.

Please meet with a Career Advisor in January to review the logistics of creating your rank order list and prior to certifying your ROL in NRMP.

The ranking process during a couples match can be challenging. You will want to identify and communicate your priorities, independently, and as a couple, and be open to compromise.

Rank all programs where you would be happy doing your training. We recommend you spend as much time discussing your middle and latter rank combinations as you do for your top ranks.

Each person will enter their own ROL but must have the same number of rank slots. The maximum is 300 rank slots.

ROL Considerations:

  • Your academic profile and the competitiveness of your specialty
  • Your partner’s academic profile and the competitiveness of their specialty
  • Your priorities as a couple: a point of conversation may be to discuss what is most important – living together, or pursuing your individual top choice programs?
    • If you are prioritizing living together, rank programs in such a way that all combinations are within commuting distance.
    • If willing to live apart, you can rank your individual top choice programs first, and then rank the remaining programs.

ROL for Preliminary and Advanced Programs:

For couples, creating ROL that include preliminary and advanced programs can be more complicated. We strongly recommend you seek guidance from your advisors and the NRMP.

In many ways the process is similar to a traditional ROL, with the addition of a supplemental prelim program list. However it is possible to link preliminary and advanced lists incorrectly, resulting in matching further down on your rank list or going unmatched.

  • Be sure to review your lists with advisors.

This is doable, and we encourage couples to consider the following before submitting their rank lists.

Some of the benefits of working in the same hospital include working for the same system, seeing each other more readily for meals and meeting each other’s friends/colleagues.

Some of the challenges that could arise if you are applying in the same specialty, at the same hospital:

  • some programs may not be willing to match a couple, so one of you may go unmatched
  • if you do match to the same program, it can be challenging or impossible to get vacation time scheduled simultaneously
  • depending on how you work together, you might need to try to be scheduled for different rotations
  • if you do prefer to work together, it could mean being on call on rotating nights, which would lead to less time together outside of the hospital

In order to officially “uncouple,” both partners must complete the process with the NRMP. Refer to the Applicant Coupling support guide, under ‘Deciding to Uncouple,” for instructions on how to complete the uncoupling process.

  • This will unlink your rank lists so that your preferences will be reviewed independently from one another.

You and your former partner may want to discuss whether you would like to officially uncouple or continue through the process as a couple but with disparate rank lists.

If you continue in the couples match system, you can ensure that your programs don’t overlap. For example, say a former couple only interviewed at three programs (unlikely, but for example purposes), their rank list might look as follows:

As you can see, their first 8 choices are designed to ensure that they are not located in the same geographic vicinity and it’s only at the bottom of the list that they are located near each other.

  • Provided they match to one of their top 8 choices, they would then be guaranteed to not be near one another.

There are some things to consider when taking this approach:

  1. It requires you and your former partner to collaborate in building your rank lists and be willing to compromise on certain preferences in order to accommodate the larger priority of not being together
  2. The couples match can make it more challenging to match/to match high on the rank list since your list is being reviewed in conjunction with another person’s list
  3. The couples match may give you more control in “guaranteeing” that you will not be near your former partner, if you feel that there is a significant risk of being near another and if avoiding that is your priority

If you are considering this approach, it is recommended that you meet with a Career Advisor to discuss further.